Poetry | Sharpest at the End: A Cycle of Poems | Trina Nileena Banerjee

Surrealist Cemetery, Christian Satin 
             “It began like a caress and ended like a knife wound,
It rained sharply all night
That late monsoon.”

“Weather Report”: Epigraph.

       In my dream

In my dream
When we touch
It snows everywhere.

When I wake
The sun has flooded
Every heart with fire.

We place
A bowl of still water
Between us and wait.


Some mornings

The sharp thread 
To the future 
Is wrapped tight
Around god's teeth.     
The universe spins like a lunatic
Doing a dance only the flies understand,
Flipping and twisting, 
Drunk on the sweetness of decay.

Time is a giant chewing on the famished night. 
Something grieves inside the ticking clock.
The gap through which you see the stars
Is closing fast.


When you fall into the water from that immense height,
Nothing remains a matter of choice.
Necessity delivers you to pain,
The spinning sky is not your friend.
Grief overtakes you as sure as love.

Words are bubbles suspended in the brutal air,
The mermaids sing: but not for you.

The crimson of this coral,
The purple of that murderous ice, 
All this is yours.

There is a whole field of drowned plastic
That your heart must negotiate.
Little landmines that will never explode 
In your lifetime.

A ship full of dead fish stands in your way,
Each as precious as a beating heart.

Tin cans fill up your stomach like factory lead.

When you fall into the water from the certainty of doom,

You take your whole city with you:
The million sweating faces, 
The jungles of smoke and cooking meat,
The hopeless prophecies of the market.

You leave on the shore a single lamp-lit table,
Where love fell like a word nobody understood.
This is your harbour, this is the resting place of ghosts.

The water drowns you like language,
Drowns you without hope.

      Impossible Cartographies

I have stood across the sea
From an island on the horizon,
And said it was mine:
Under my breath, 
Feeling my heartbeat quicken,
Knowing not a map in the world
Would tell me its coordinates, 
That no ship would take me there.

I have said to myself that it was mine
Holding your hand across the impossible waves,
Our fingers have felt its shape, 
The soaking greenery, the unstoppable rain,
The rivulets freezing into ice over the difficult winters.

Knowing neither of us knew the way
You have opened sealed bottles from the sea,
In anticipation of its appearance.
I have felt in my belly the slow weight of its blooming flora,
Years have passed in making sure
That insatiable dreams do not devour our waking hours.

There is an island in time that was ours
It gleams on the ocean where we cannot see it,
But the map of our bodies is already its terrain.
It owns us, while we wait for the sea to send us a boat.
Perhaps this year, the waters will be kind to us.

Not You

What my fingers touch is not you.
The burning tip of the cigarette,
Droplets on the side of the frozen bottle,
The ashes of consequence, years wasted,
The third sleeping pill, the last two glugs
Of shampoo, slime, bubbles, 
A knot of hair stuck in the drain,
Hot, cold, brittle, tough, crumbly, wet
There is a whole universe of textures 
Open to my fingers, I plunge my hands 
Into everything, all day

But everything, all day is not you
This freezing, burning, coagulating, condensing, sticky, fuzzy, elastic world…
I am free to go anywhere, touch anything.
I even touch the rain, I stick out my tongue
But it is not you
Nothing I taste is you
Sweet bitter rancid tart burning hot
It makes no difference
There is no difference
Everything speaks of a fatal sameness
Not you not you not you


I put my eye next to the miniature tree on the vase that belonged to my grandmother,
I try to discern the shades that make up its indeterminate hue, over the transparent glass,
Blue green aquamarine, and a slapdash splash of gory pink,
Where the cherry blossom was meant to be.

I wonder if she ever saw a cherry blossom in her life, my grandmother,
With a smile as wide as the hills, and always mixing, burning, mixing her metaphors.

You see, this is how it is, I begin to write to you of love,
And I end by telling you a story, every time.
I tell you a story like a half-finished painting by someone I used to know,
A painting I found in the attic when I was barely eight,
A painting I treasured till I traveled beyond its strangeness to the indifferent landscapes of the world.
I tell you a story that has nothing to do with you or me or love or this shameless, soaking mess we find ourselves in.

We stay as long as we tell each other stories,
And if dawn breaks over love's muffled cries
We will take our story to another night, barely floating through the morose daylight that fills the space-in-between.

A thousand and one nights stand staring at us in this room, this moment,
Two prisoners waiting for an execution, or a prince desolate enough to stake his kingdom on one more tale, or
The wild horse in the stable tearing at his bit in the depth of the night, his blood more crimson than the sky boiling at dawn.

The branches of that imaginary tree are purple and iridescent, on each branch a bead of glass shaped like a teardrop,
The tree whispers endlessly when the stars are dimmed,
The soil around the glassy roots grows moist, 
The leaves glow in a humid heat,
Such is the fevered delirium of the night.

The tree spins love like a fragile thread,
Its branches coil and unfurl like fingers,
It spins stories like threads like roots like wrinkled time
She spins all night like my grandmother and her grandmother before her.
And so too, I must finish spinning you this one,
Must finish spinning you like yarn before dawn, 
For what is love but a fond tale we tell each other,
Twisting the ends of a moist, humid core, untangling messy, stubborn roots from seething soil,
Looking, as fools often do, for sense, for sequence, for reason, 
Tighten this yarn around your fingers before you go,
For what is love but a thousand teardrops gleaming, like drowned voices bursting forth from the darkness of the night.



There is music between us.

Your fingers are the string and bow

And I merely formless sound,
Liquid air that trembles as you leave,
Somewhere in between coming, and going,
And coming again, skin and skin
Have condensed like fevered drops on 
Broken window panes, waiting for the wind
Again to come alive, for the night 
To become a dark sea of immeasurable 
Waves, noiseless and vast as only love
Can be.


When you give your heart out it is like an opened flower any boot can crush,

When you take it back it looks a bit like a brick with cracks in it,

And saplings growing out of its fissures,
It is an old thing - a brick - damp and mossy,
Burnt red and a little charred at the edges,
But with a brick you can build a house
Or bolster the clay oven where you make 
Your daily bread.
Admit it, we each have bricks and flowers
And so many hearts broken and fresh 
That we have stopped counting.
But we build our houses and bake our bread
Because at the end of a long night of love,
You are still hungry.
You cannot eat flowers, or can you?

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